The Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock will be playoff opponents, this much we know. The when and the where is yet to be determined, but tonight’s National Lacrosse League game between these teams in Toronto could determine these mysteries. But that’s not the only issue at hand. While the Toronto Rock have been searching for consistency all season, winning their last 2 games may have them on track. The Bandits, meanwhile, have lost 5 straight and continue to search for that track. “Concern is the right word to use, I wouldn’t say panic or overreaction,” Buffalo defenseman Derek Suddons told Bandits.com. “We are glad it has happened now. It’s better to have a bit of a rut this time in the season and reassess what we can improve on and what we can do better.”
While the current skid reminds us of last season’s 6-game slump in Buffalo, this year’s streak will not cost the Bandits a playoff spot. Both Buffalo and Toronto are in the playoffs, but second place and an important home game in the first round is yet to be determined.
The Bandits can clinch that homefield advantage tonight with a win. Toronto still has a chance, but must win its final 2 games and have Buffalo lose its final 3. It’s a tall order for the Rock, especially coming against a team it’s lost to twice already this season. So a win tonight not only extends Toronto’s chances to gain homefield advantage, it can do something even bigger.
“It’s a game for us to set a tone and a message that we can beat them,” Toronto coach John Lovell told the Toronto Star.
What’s got to be frustrating for the Bandits is that they know what’s wrong. They just have to get back to what they were doing right when they got off to an 8-2 start. Knowing it and doing it, though, have proven to be 2 different things. Assistant coach Rich Kilgour said the biggest key is getting the defense back to a pack mentality and not give up so much room in the middle.
“When they (opposing teams) know they’ve got to run through those trees we have on defense, it becomes hard to pay the price for all four quarters,” Kilgour told Bandits.com. “We need to get back to making them pay the price through the first three quarters and then the fourth quarters will start getting easier.”
As for the Rock, they’ve worked 1 game without top scorer Garrett Billings and they know whatever work they have left for them this season will be done without him as he begins recuperation from a torn ACL.
“You just don’t replace 100 points out of your lineup, but we haven’t tried to,” Lovell told the Star. “We’ve got a pretty good core of guys that have been solid for us all year and we’re doing this pretty much by committee.”
For a game with so many known quantities, there remain a lot of unknowns heading for a collision tonight in Toronto. The end result could settle some issues but since this will not be the last time these rivals see each other this season, it will not be an end of the intensity.
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The Buffalo Bandits are bitter rivals, on the floor. Off the floor, Cody Jamieson says he wants to do what he can to help Tucker Williams, the 8-year-old son of Bandits forward and former Knighthawk Shawn Williams. Tucker has been diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt’s Lymphoma, and Jamieson will auction his custom Braver Than Brave Under Armour Charge 2 stick after Saturday’s game against Buffalo, with all proceeds going to the Williams family. “I wanted to help out in any way that I could. Willy was my coach in 2007 for the Jr. A team here in Six Nations. He taught me a lot that year and helped us get a Minto Cup. He was also my captain during my rookie year with the Knighthawks. I look up to him as a role model and have a tremendous amount of respect for him, not only because of his lacrosse game, but how he is off the floor,” said Jamieson. (Rochester Knighthawks) … The Colorado Mammoth can clinch the NLL’s final playoff spot with a win on Saturday against Minnesota, and the Mammoth say they won’t be deceived by Minnesota’s 4-12 record. “It is not going to be an easy game. They have a good, young and fast team, and we can’t go in there thinking that this one is in the bag,” said co-coach Dan Stroup. (Colorado Mammoth) … Just as the Mammoth won’t take the Swarm lightly, the Swarm aren’t taking Saturday’s game lightly even though there will be no playoffs for them this season. “The guys made a pact that the last two games are going to be wins for us, they know they are playing all playoff teams and they want to send a message,” said coach Joe Sullivan. (Minnesota Swarm) … The Edmonton Rush have never swept a season series with the rival Calgary Roughnecks but they’re poised to do that this season with the Riggers in town on Saturday night. Making it more impressive is that this year’s series is 4 games thanks to the league’s expanded regular-season schedule. (Edmonton Rush).Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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